Road Trip

The next morning Will was dragged kicking and screaming from a dreamless sleep by the incessant honking of a car horn outside his bedroom window. Despite its aggravating intrusion on his normally peaceful sanctuary, he did not make any hurried moves to discover its source. Will did not believe in doing anything in a rush in the morning; truth be told, he did his best not to believe in mornings at all.

His nostrils tested the air for smoke but only turned up the pile of musky clothes residing in the laundry basket next to the door. “Well, if the house isn’t burning down,” he muttered, “it can’t be that important.” He rolled on to his side, facing away from the window, and clamped the pillow against his ears. Unfortunately that did nothing to limit the noise and he soon realized that sleep was not an option until the honking stopped.

He flopped onto his back and stared at the first rays of sunshine colliding with his drawn curtains and cursed Leah for teaching yoga instead of being at home to deal with this nuisance. With a mighty effort and a heartfelt sigh, he pushed himself to a sitting position and swung his legs onto the floor. As he moved to the window, dressed only in his blue boxer briefs and his short black hair sticking in exactly twelve hundred different directions, he realized the sound seemed to be a lot closer than it should have been.

After he threw the curtains apart he understood why.

West had parked his black convertible on the lawn, directly outside Will’s window. One ink-covered arm rested on his door while the other used the horn to keep the beat to a song only he could hear. After three more honks he noticed that Will was up at last and he brought his vehicular serenade to a halt.

“What,” Will said, blinking his eyes as he attempted to adjust to the bright outdoors, “the hell.”

“Not a morning person, I take it?”

“You’re lucky I didn’t shoot you.”

“Really?” West asked, his eyebrows rising slightly. “I didn’t figure you to be a ‘right to bear arms’ kinda guy.”

“What do you want?” Will shot back, deciding it was in his best interest to let a man like West believe he was armed.

“Get dressed; we’re going on a road trip.” Then, seeing the alarm in Will’s eyes, he added with a bemused smile, “I’m not going to drive you out to the swamp and dump your body. I want you to show me your food suppliers.”

“You what?” Will was already drafting the restraining order in his head.

“I want to see where the food I’m cooking with comes from. Now you can either get dressed and come out here on your own, or I can drag you out as is. Up to you.”

“I’ll be out in a minute,” Will said with a sad look at his bed. “And get the hell off our lawn.”

Eight minutes later Will emerged from the house in sandals, tan cargo shorts, a plain white t-shirt, and a faded grey ball cap covering his unruly hair. West had moved the car to the curb in front of the house and the passenger door stood open. He slid into the purring vehicle after a nervous look around his neighbourhood and a silent prayer that at least one of his neighbours was bearing witness to this scene. He doubted it though – everyone within half a mile either used, or was in need of, hearing aids, so their sleep would have been undisturbed by West’s antics.

“You could have just called,” he said as the car roared to life.

“Where’s the fun in that?” West asked straight-faced. “So what‘s our first stop?”

Will directed him south on an empty road that twisted and turned through towering pines casting their prickly shadows onto the asphalt. As they flashed in and out of sunshine, the heady scent of pine needles invigorating their lungs, conversation was limited to groggy warnings that a turn was coming up and a handful of appreciative comments on the scenery that sped past their open windows. Fifteen minutes after they had passed the outskirts of Locke Will pointed to a dirt lane leading towards the coast and West dutifully manoeuvred the car along its bumpy surface.

“This is Levelton Farms,” Will said as they exited the trees and entered a small field filled with low growing vegetables. “They supply all of our salad items: beets, carrots, lettuce, peppers… etcetera.”  He yawned and stretched his arms above his head, letting his fingers play in the soft breeze.

“Nice location,” West observed as he brought the car to a stop and climbed out. Will considered staying in the car as West began to move down the rows of plants but reluctantly followed when he remembered that, unlike himself, Terry Levelton did own a gun and he was very fond of using it. He caught up to his new cook as he crouched down to inspect the red peppers, his fingers gentle on their shining surfaces. West took a deep whiff of the leaves before gathering a handful of soil and rubbing it between his fingers.

“It’s all organic,” he told him, looking toward the house for signs of movement. “No harmful sprays, all natural fertilizer, the works.”

“Good,” West replied and began to head back to the car. “What’s next on the list?”

A similar scene played out at Anderlini Farms before they paid a visit to Acland Ranch, where Will procured his goat, cow, and chicken meat. West was again satisfied by what he saw and requested one final stop at the beach that had sourced the clams he cooked the day before. Will, slightly more awake by this point, directed them back through Locke just as it was beginning to show signs of life.

Ten minutes later they pulled up to a locked gate, which Will produced a key for, and drove down the gravel road to the private beach. It was high tide, so the expanse of beach that held the shellfish lay hidden beneath the water. The two men stood at the water’s edge for a long time without speaking.

“I like it here,” West said at last as he studied the horizon. “It’s very peaceful.”

“Need a break from fighting?” Will asked, surprised at how at ease he felt after spending a morning with the towering stranger.

“You’ll never understand me,” West replied flatly as he began walking back to the car, “so don’t bother trying.”

The End

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